With Disney celebrating its 100th anniversary this week, I thought it’d be the perfect time for a short retrospective on the beginning of LEGO and Disney’s partnership, beginning with the very first LEGO Mickey Mouse theme.
While LEGO Disney is a full-blown theme now (with some truly excellent sets like 43230 Walt Disney Tribute Camera), LEGO and Disney’s partnership began in much more modest fashion, with some of these odd Mickey figures you see above.
Technically, the first LEGO and Disney theme was a Duplo Winnie the Pooh way back in 1999. Here’s a photo of the sets I took at the LEGO House, which currently has a very interesting LEGO Disney display, including some prototype Disney 100 Collectible Minifigures which I’ll share at the end of this article!
But in the meantime, let’s revisit LEGO’s first System Mickey Mouse sets, a Juniors-esque theme (targeting 4-9 year olds) that was released in 2000. It spanned 5 sets with design hints borrowed from LEGO Fabuland, and for the longest time were the only official LEGO Mickey Mouse-themed sets.
- 4164: Mickey’s Fire Engine
- 4165: Minnie’s Birthday Party
- 4166: Mickey’s Car Garage
- 4167: Mickey’s Mansion
- 4178: Mickey’s Fishing Adventure
The 2000s and late 90s were known as LEGO’s most turbulent years, with the company on the brink of bankruptcy, and these Mickey Mouse figures (Mickeyfigures?) were one of the emblems of LEGO’s largesse and messy strategy, which was to throw as many things to the wall to see what sticks. Remember Galidor?
While having a top tier license like Disney makes perfect sense, especially for a toy company, these figures were so far away from LEGO’s design language and iconic minifigure, but thankfully they were still System-compatible.
Notice the two anti-studs on their legs?
And yes, their hands were also compatible with minifigure accessories!
Here’s a side by side with a modern LEGO Mickey minifigure just to illustrate how different and unique these 2000 Mickey Mouse figures were. For one, they were much larger, and their legs occupied a 2×2 footprint, but they shared many similarities with minifigures including the articulation.
They’re almost like an in-between of a Duplo figure and LEGO minifigure.
These Mickey Mouse figures only came in that one wave of Mickey Mouse sets in 2000, so are a bit of a relic of their time, and while they look weird, I do kind of like how unique they are.
LEGO has come a long way of course, and minifigures (and minidolls) are now the defacto orthodox manifestation of any Disney collaboration, and with this year being Disney’s 100th anniversary, we also got the Disney 100 Collectible Minifigures series which released in May 2023.
It featured historical LEGO Disney sets, including the Primo Baby Mickey theme, and the aforementioned Duplo Winnie the Pooh sets but curiously, I didn’t see these 2000 System Mickey Mouse figures which I thought was odd!
The exhibit featured a really interesting look at the development of some of the Disney 100 Collectible minifigures, with notes, references and different concepts involved in the process, which sheds some light on how these new minifigures, wigs and accessories come to life.
In particular, I found the LEGO Pinocchio prototypes and sculpts really fascinating.
Really interesting to see what led to the creation of the head, which features Pinocchio’s protruding nose.
We also got a look at the different prototypes of Pocahontas, with her dramatic windswept hair.
And last but not least, a look at Cruella De Vil and Patch the Dalmatian!!
I really enjoyed this exhibit at the LEGO House, as it’s not common for us to see prototypes and design notes from such a recent release, so I hope you found this interesting.
Did you own any of these older Mickey Mouse figures? What did you think of them?
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